Remember that time I wrote about my first kiss? Well, let me tell you about the first time I had my heart broken by a boy. A good story always starts with some boring-but-essential context so let me give you some.
I was 17 years old and didn’t have a great deal of self-esteem. I had a chipped front tooth (like a farmer), struggling with accepting my changing body and wasn’t really attractive. To my family they thought I’d never stop wearing boxers under my skirt or exit the tom-boy phase so I generally thought when people saw me they saw a bloke.
This changed when….
A boy started to give me a bit of attention. Before I knew it we were inboxing which quickly turned into dates and eventually him asking me to be his girlfriend. I was thrilled. A boy actually liked ME.
We dated on and off because when you’re that young and don’t know how to communicate you tend to have “breaks.” I was convinced that despite his bad boy tendencies I would be the one he would choose to love forever.
One Valentine’s Day he asked me if we should break up. I thought he was being silly because it was fucking VALENTINES DAY but he was dead serious. Being quick-witted I responded “yeah we should” while holding a dozen of red roses he had just gifted me.
Until one Thursday evening we were sitting at the train station and he broke up with me for the final time. As he spoke I knew this time was the real deal.
No make-up texts or calls tomorrow morning. I was shattered and ran to the park next to my house and bawled my eyes out. Until this day I still believe he broke my heart. All the ideals I had built in my head of us being #highschoolsweethearts, riding it out for years was shattered.
I think the biggest misconception that grown people do is minimize teenage relationships to lust.
What led this heartbreak was a strong feeling of unworthiness. My dad walked out on us when I was 7 years old to pursue another life and it left our household broken. It took years for me to heal from that. The break up re-opened that wound. Not easy stuff.
I made stupid pacts with myself like “I will ask him again in 6 months if this is what he really wants.”
I tried my hardest to be where he was just so I could catch a glimpse of him.
I wanted him to feel as shit as I was feeling but at the same time regret his decision.
What followed that evening was a long, fun and semi-destructive journey of trying to get over him and find myself again.
I share this story because it taught me some hearty lessons like:
You cannot place your validation in someone else’s hands: I didn’t believe I was attractive until this boy gave me some attention. Placing my validation in him and our relationship to feel valued or worthy was the hardest part for me to reconcile when I was made single again.
Today my validation is biblically based however it hasn’t always been that way. As a Christian I can be real quick to quote scripture but I’ve found that it at the core of it all, it’s merely lip service.
Often I’ve relied on “what I do” as a sense of identity. I’ve relied on my coaches to tell me what kind of rugby player I am. I’ve relied on my boyfriend to make me feel beautiful. I’ve relied on my friends to tell me I’m a good person. While I know it’s nice when they do remind me of these things, if I have no sense of self and I relied solely on external forces to validate my identity, what happens when they stop giving me compliments? Again, this is all to highlight the importance of owning the responsibility of learning and knowing your worth.
How do you do this? Learning to truly love yourself, unapologetically and wholeheartedly. Flaws and all. If we don’t we will always try to fill that void with temporary pleasure that will empty itself as quickly as it was filled.
Today, knowing and understanding my worth is personal and ongoing. Not everyday I wake up feeling like a bad ass bitch but it allows me to lift my head higher when times are trying, enables me to have the confidence to correct someone if they are overstepping my boundaries and stick up for myself.
This hasn’t always been the case for me but in hindsight, the heartbreak was the starting point of my self-exploration journey.
Comparison is the thief of joy: Inevitably he started dating another girl after we broke up. I spent an unhealthy amount of time picking myself apart and comparing myself to his new girlfriend.
Thinking about it now, that was the worst thing I did to myself. Not only did I choose the worst self-esteem fix but it’s so harmful to internalize these comparisons and eventually allow it to influence your behavior.
Before I knew it I couldn’t stand either of them on sight. I despised him for choosing her over me.
The root to this toxic mindset was comparison. If this means anything to anyone STOP LOOKING AT YOUR EXES LIFE or trying to figure out if they’re doing better or worse without you. It accomplishes absolutely nothing.
Express don’t suppress: I’m human, I have emotions. It is important I feel and understand what’s happening on the inside of me. If only I knew this back then.
I harbored bitterness on the inside of me and because I was too proud to admit it, it manifested in the poor choices I made when it came to boys over the next 3 years.
I realise as a growing woman it’s much more conducive to my wellbeing to express my truth regardless of how scary or daunting it can be. It takes courage to say this is how I am feeling but a few things that have helped me express the matters of my heart include:
- Journaling: We are all unique beings. Some express themselves through dance, poetry, sport etc. For me, writing is my solace. I don’t do it as often as I wish but when I do, it really does me world of good.
- Community: Life was never intended to be done alone. Find your tribe (even if it’s one person) who will really listen, comfort and encourage. Someone who will stand with you through all seasons of life and is not afraid to give you some tough love when needed. I am grateful for the few I can count on one hand, who continue to provide a safe space for me. Despite how strong you may think you are we all need a shoulder to lean on every now and then.
- Self-exploration resources: I love to read and some books to date that have challenged my long-held beliefs and inspired me to think higher include the likes of Brene Brown and Maya Angelou. These books have offered alternate perspectives that in turn have helped me realise it’s not how I see a problem but rather how I view it.
In the past two years I have learnt a solid amount about myself and that wouldn’t have been possible without being curious.
Triggers point where you are not free: Read that line again and let it sink in.
We seem to be talking a lot about triggers but the hell are they? My definition is, triggers are your unhealed pain points that cause us to respond emotionally rather than rationally.
There are particular parts of that relationship that really hurt me and because I didn’t deal with those pain points I carried that mistrust and shame with me for years. However after some time I was able to turn the mistrust and shame into boundaries meaning I won’t let anyone treat me a certain way because I know I deserve better.
Even as a 17 year old the break up was dehumanizing and destructive but it was also a stepping stone in my growth as a woman.
Next time you’re triggered by something or someone, I challenge you to stop and reflect on why you were triggered. A lot easier said than done.
What happened next?
Looking back, between the age of 18-21 I was a bit of a loose unit. You’d never know the youth leader who was at church 4 days a week was leading this complete double standard life.
All I wanted to do was drink and desperately find someone to love me. I would often cry and cringe at the decisions I made on the weekend then one night it dawned on me, I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I didn’t want to feel like second best or anyone’s last resort.
I vividly remember praying a prayer along the lines of “God, the next person you bring into my life is the one you intend for me.”
In the most unexpected way and timing, I met my current partner of nearly 4 years. Our story is one that’s really close to my heart so I’ll share that another time.
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